Idaho's Reckless and Inattentive Driving Laws and Penalties

Read about Idaho’s reckless and inattentive driving laws and the consequences of a conviction.

In Idaho, “reckless driving” is a crime. A motorist can be convicted of the offense for:

  • driving “carelessly and heedlessly or without due caution and circumspection, and at a speed or in a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property,” or
  • passing another vehicle when there is a line in the lane indicating a sight distance restriction.

(Idaho Code Ann. § 49-1401(1) (2017).)

Reckless Driving Penalties

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Idaho. The possible penalties for a conviction are:

  • First offense. A first reckless driving conviction carries up to six months in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines.
  • Repeat offense. For a second or subsequent reckless driving violation within five years, the motorist is looking at up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $2,000 in fines.

The convicted motorist faces a license suspension of 30 days for a first violation, 90 days for a second violation within two years, and one year for a third conviction within a three-year period.

Inattentive Driving

Idaho has a less serious crime called “inattentive driving.” The offense is defined as driving in a manner that is “inattentive, careless or imprudent … rather than heedless or wanton, or in those cases where the danger to persons or property by the motor vehicle operator's conduct is slight.”

The difference between reckless and inattentive driving is a matter of degree. Generally, reckless driving involves the operation of a vehicle that’s obviously dangerous, whereas more subtle instances of bad driving might be in the inattentive driving category.

Inattentive driving, like reckless driving, is a misdemeanor. However, the consequences are less severe than those for reckless driving. A motorist who's convicted of inattentive driving faces up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum $300 in fines. An inattentive driving violation will also add three demerit points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating 12 or more points within a year will lead to license suspension.

Reckless Driving and DUI Charges (“Wet Reckless”)

In some states, it’s possible for a driver who’s charged with driving under the influence (DUI), to “plea bargain” for a lesser charge. When a DUI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it’s sometimes called a “wet reckless.”

Idaho law doesn’t prohibit plea bargaining in DUI cases. So, for someone who’s accused of driving under the influence in Idaho, plea bargaining for a reckless driving charge is a possibility.


Generally speaking, sentencing law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including the severity of the damage at issue, credits for good in-custody behavior, and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

The facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for or charged with reckless or inattentive driving, get in contact with an experienced defense attorney. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.

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